Palliative Care Volunteers

Palliative Care Volunteers

The Class of 2015

The happy group of seniors pictured above are the latest crop of palliative care volunteers to have completed an inspired training on the mid-north coast of NSW. The photo includes facilitators Karen Rudge and Rob Crombie. You might notice yours truly in the front row.

While pride is not always an admirable trait, I can’t help but feel proud to have trained over the last eight weeks with such a genuine and generous group of people. We now consider ourselves part of an amazing palliative care team.

Soon I will be paired with a patient who I will visit weekly to offer social support. 

I’m a little nervous about what the experience will be like when ‘my tires hit the road’. Will the patient like me? Will I like him or her? 

The most valuable thing that we learned in our weekly sessions was that it’s not about us. We’re there for a person who is likely to be in a vulnerable stage of life.

Friends and acquaintances have said to me, ‘Why would you want to take on this type of volunteer work?’ I don’t think I have an easy answer, only that I know that it’s the right thing for my time of life.

What is Palliative Care?

If you are unfamiliar with the notion of palliative care, it is a specialised type of care for people who have serious illnesses. The aim is to offer relief from symptoms, pain, physical difficulties and the mental stress of illness. The ideal outcome is that the patient’s quality of life improves.

palliation

Yoga Has Brought Me Here

I may be somewhat nervous but am overall looking forward to getting into this work. I remember a similar feeling of anticipation forty-four years ago when I stumbled into my first yoga class. And then again, 35 years ago when I started yoga teaching.

In a way, I see the possibility of what I will be doing as a refinement of yoga teaching. I hope to offer practical help to the patient, as well as companionship. I love that the palliative approach is multidisciplinary. Like yoga, it is holistic, and treats the patient in consideration of their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.

Palliative volunteering brings to mind a favourite quote (from the epic Ramayana):

When I don’t know who I am, I serve you.

When I know who I am, I am you.

The ‘angels of medical care’, the palliative nurses, have described to us the huge gifts the relationship with a patient brings.

In return, my goal is to comfort the patient and to express a compassionate attitude that sees that we are the same in our humanity… and in our mortality.